“We all thought the pageant was about Jesus, but that was only part of it. It was about a new baby, and his mother and father who were in a whole lot of trouble—no money, no place to go, no doctor, nobody they knew.”
-Beth Bradley, the narrator of ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.’
Over the last few months, our children, youth and a handful of adults have been preparing to tell a story. It’s a familiar tale, of course, for many of us. But to the majority of our cast, the story of Jesus’ birth is new territory. And that’s not all that’s new to our collection of young thespians. Many of them are very new to stage acting, as well!
The story that we have been preparing to tell is a story within a story. It’s about a church—not unlike our own—who is trying to put on their annual children’s Christmas Pageant. But things take an unusual twist when the cast becomes populated with the neighborhood bullies, who are perfectly horrible.
Throughout the play, statements emerge that could have come straight from our own church: A parent remarks: “Do I really have to go and see the play?” A child protests: “I don’t want to be in the play!” A church member is aghast at the casts’ behavior: “Can you believe what that child just did?!” The director can’t get through a rehearsal without the play falling apart and the pastor—trying to keep the peace—wonders aloud: “Shouldn’t we just cancel the pageant?”
There’s no strain or difficulty when we read the Christmas story, ourselves, or hear it read to us in a worship service. But simply reading the story is not enough to grasp the meaning and power of God’s love in a specific instance and point in history. To truly understand what happened, we must see the story, we must feel the tension, we must put ourselves in the place of the shepherds, the young couple, and the travel-wearied Magi. And to do that, we must find a way to tell the story together.
Telling the Christmas story together, as in a play or production, is infinitely harder than simply reading the 67 verses that describe the event in scripture. And yet, telling the story together is what God asks of us. We are the Body of Christ, and we have been charged with the responsibility of telling the story together—all of us.
What’s remarkable, of course, is that the production proves what we all know to be true, but often fail to remember. The story of God’s love in the birth of Jesus changes us. When we place ourselves in the cramped stable with Mary and Joseph, and are able to see the Christ child lying in a manger, we are changed by a God who would do the unthinkable to love the forgotten and the unlovable.
These last few weeks, in particular, have reminded me of the power of God’s love as it works through people. Coming on board our production have been parents, other adults, advocates alike, who have eagerly agreed to help and assist us backstage and with an encouraging word. As many of us all very aware, a Christmas production with children is an, “All hands on deck!,” kind of moment. And it should be, shouldn’t it? We have an extraordinary story to tell and it requires all of us to help tell it.
The name of our production is, ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,’ and it will be presented this Friday evening, December 16th, at 7:00 PM in our sanctuary.
I believe that the production will live up to its namesake—especially if everyone shows up to be a part of the storytelling.
Please join us on Friday night. We even have a reception planned to foster fellowship and laughter. Because that’s part of our story as well.